"I CHANGE my career to fight climate change.”
Sustainability Coordinator, City and Town of Ithaca, New York
I was making a living as a juggler and acrobat, performing across the country and around the world. I learned about climate change in 2008 and it changed my life. The knowledge compelled me to reinvent myself – I eventually changed careers to fight climate change.
I became immersed in the idea of efficiency and doing the most you can with as little impact as possible. I got involved in different nonprofits focused on climate change, energy efficiency and renewable energy – organizations like 350.org and GreenHomeNYC. My entrance to the field was as an activist and a volunteer, but I kept searching for how to get more involved.
I decided to go back to school. I was living in New York City and the New York Institute of Technology was one of the few schools at that time offering a program in energy management. I graduated with a Masters in Energy Management from NYIT and also received an Advanced Certificate in Environmental Management.
In 2011, right after receiving my Masters, I moved back to my hometown, Ithaca, New York, and soon joined Taitem Engineering, doing energy audits and energy analysis. After a year, I was hired to be Sustainability Planner for the Towns of Ithaca and Dryden in 2012, which transitioned to Sustainability Coordinator for both the Town and City of Ithaca in 2014. I feel extremely lucky to have fallen into a job with such broad scope and so much potential, and I love that I am now working side-by-side as a colleague with the people who I did informational interviews with just five years ago.
My work covers a wide variety of sustainability initiatives. Here are two examples:
• The Residential Energy Score Project is a collaboration of five municipalities looking at the idea of a program which would allow homeowners to obtain and share an energy score for their house. The score – like an MPG rating for the home – can be taken into consideration when people are making their decision to rent or buy, and will allow people to value energy efficiency improvements that are often invisible. The goal is to have the current planning phase completed by August 2016, and to begin implementing a voluntary program soon after.
• A two megawatt solar farm is being developed for the City of Ithaca at the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport. This solar farm will provide more than a third of city government electricity needs and reduce our carbon footprint substantially. The project has faced numerous barriers, which have prolonged the timeline, but we hope to be generating clean electricity by the end of 2016.
Personally, I’m working to reduce my family’s carbon footprint in a number of ways. We live right downtown, so I can walk my son to school, then walk or bike to work. My wife and I bought an energy efficient hybrid car for when we need to drive. We bought a house last year, and right when we moved in, we had an energy audit done, and then brought in a company to do airsealing and to install additional insulation. Our new house already had solar PV installed on it; the solar panels are leased for 25 years. We compost and recycle, but that’s pretty standard practice around here. We do a lot, but there’s a lot more we could be doing – for example, we could purchase locally more, and generate less food waste. That’s true for anybody – whether you found out about climate change yesterday, or have been creating solutions your whole life, there’s always more you can do.
Do you need to take a bold action like changing your career to be a Climate Changer? No. But if you are considering it, it can be done. I did it. . . and it changed my life.
If you would like to connect with me to explore what action(s) you can take to address climate change, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org (‘email’ is part of the address) or connect with me on LinkedIn.